John Himmelman's Stories' Stories
The Super Camper Caper
By John Himmelman
Silver Seedling Easy Reader
For Unc, who survived the childhoods of my brothers and me.
Ugh, this was a disaster. I'll tell you about it in a moment.
Book 3 in the 4-book Fix-it Family series. In this one, the Wrights (who are beavers) go to the woods in a souped up camper built by inventor/fix-it beaver dad (Orville). They help out a family of opossums, whose son went missing.
The story and art was fine, as far as I was concerned, but there was a fiasco in the design end. Look at the next picture.
See the gray wash around the art? That shouldn't be there. This appeared in many of the illustrations. Whoever did the layout, CUT THE ORIGINAL PICTURES OUT WITH AN EXACTO KNIFE and placed them over the laid-out text. The problem was that the paper from my art and the text background were different shades of white, causing the outline of the cutout to stand out.
This was the only book done like this, and I didn't get to see it until they were already printed. Since then, I've always asked to see the proofs (printing samples) before the final printing.
Not all of the illustrations had that annoying gray around it. I did like this spread, the one child comforting another, frightened, child. I say child and not beaver because they're basically people drawn as animals. Anthropomorphism runs rampant in children's books. But hasn't it always throughout the history of tale telling?
Belle was my favorite character, whose sweetness was inspired by my sweet little 3 year old daughter, Lizzie. I was happy to give Belle a chatty possum counterpart in this story.
I also gave Belle a quiet confidence and competence. As the baby of the family, she was often underestimated. When she came through, you cheered for her - or such was my hope.
Overinflated, hot air-filled tires bring them home for new adventures - at least one more book-full.
This is one of the pieces of butchered artwork that was re-taped together. I think Silver Burdette was trying out a new designer. She did not get her hands on my last book in the series - or she did, but learned from her mistake.
As for cutting up the art, I mentioned in another post that the illustrations are first and foremost created for printing. What happens to the originals is less important. But I know that art directors go out of their way to preserve the art, and if something has to be done to it, it's for the sake of how it will look in print. There was no excuse for this, though, as it was done unnecessarily with lousy results.